Engraved in my heart, is that moment when I saw you for the first time. When our eyes locked, and I knew that I would never be the same again. No, it’s not the first time, I met my husband. It’s the day, our darling daughter arrived.
As a mother, that’s what you wait for. No amount of ultrasound scans can make your heart swell, and experience joy indescribable as seeing your baby for the first time. Goosebumps!
For some reason, Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’ was playing through my head the whole time. That song gave me power. I felt I accomplished one of the insurmountable tasks of life- giving birth. I love you Katy!
One of the first and earliest forms of communication is eye contact. It is vital for communication because, as they say ‘Words mean nothing, unless the eyes speak them too’.
From the first few hours after birth to around 10 weeks, eye contact starts emerging in a new born. In the beginning, babies use eye contact to direct their attention, request and greet. You can read about the ‘direct their attention’ bit, on my last week’s post, “Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity”- Weil.
As if a key unlocks the door, eye contact unlocks joint attention. They are mutually inclusive.
In 1985, child psychiatrist Daniel Stern gave three facets to joint attention:
- Sharing of attention– The ability to share attention typically begins at birth through the first year of life. It is significant in terms of eye contact, because the baby shares attention by looking at the parent for their needs and the parent immediately responds.
- Sharing of affect (emotion)– By 6 months of age, babies are able to express different emotional states of pleasure, distress and discomfort. Again, eye contact comes into picture, because they share these emotions by directing their gaze towards the parent.
- Sharing of intention– By 9 months of age, babies use gestures and/or vocalizations (sounds), make eye contact, come to you and see how you react to them. For e.g. One day, my daughter came towards me, looked at me, she pointed to the Teddy and made the sound ‘ttt’. She was asking me to get the teddy. I rejoiced because, that’s when I knew she is communicating with intention.
Having laid down all the facts, I am sure you must be thinking, eye contact is a natural process, how can I possibly do something about this. Well, there is always a way to do things better. By following the below mentioned tips and activities, you are consciously making an effort to encourage and enhance your child’s communication. And who wouldn’t want that for their children.
TIPS AND ACTIVITIES FOR EYE CONTACT:
- I see you!– in the first few months, babies can only see clearly up to 6 to 10 inches. That’s the distance between you and the baby on your lap or hand. I utilized my feeding time with my daughter to make eye contact. I always tap on her cheeks to get her attention and when she looked at me, I said ‘ I see you, mama is here’. My husband always thought, I was on her face. Now he knows why.
- Heads, shoulders, knees and toes: at one time, even the neighbors could hear me sing this song aloud. It was our anthem, as I touched her eyes, ears, mouth and nose to make her aware and look at me during our singing session. Tap your child’s mouth, then your mouth. If he/she looks at you even for a brief second, say ‘good looking’.
- The i- ball: My daughter loves her i-ball. It’s still her favorite. This bright orange noisy ball always got her attention. I used to hold it at my eye level, and whenever it made the slightest sound she looked at me. Therefore, keep their favorite toys within your eye level so they look at you.
- Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the funniest of them all?: As my daughter turned older, we played’ funny’ faces by looking at the mirror. I am pretty sure, she thought ‘I have a mommy clown at home’. You can do this anywhere, even when you are out shopping in the mall.
- Come, sit with me: The best position is to sit face to face with your child, on your lap. If he/she sits on a couch or chair, you sit on the floor. With my daughter, she used to sit on my lap and making funny faces seemed to be best way, to get her to look at me. Each child is different. See what activity and which position works best for you.
- Tip: Try to reduce visual and auditory distractions like television, music etc. This will help them focus better.
- Get down to their level: by far this is the most important thing to remember. Often, as adults we are mostly guilty of talking to our children standing, because we feel we are the person in control. Through my experience with young children, I have seen, that the moment you get down to their level, they feel respected and loved. They are available to listen and learn.
There you have it, easy ways to initiate and encourage eye contact with your children. You can do them anywhere and everywhere.
Our beloved Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) said “I love children. They are content with the least of things, gold and mud are same in their eyes“.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this post. Have a fun filled weekend!
Source of facts: The SCERTS Model, By Barry Prizant, Amy. M.Wetherby, Emily Rubin, Amy.C. Laurent and Patrick.J.Rydell